Vehicle plows into fundraiser for victims of fire that killed Pa. FF's family members, killing 1

"This is crazy. I didn't even bury my kids yet," said Nescopeck volunteer firefighter Harold Baker, adding that relatives of his were among the 17 injured


Bob Kalinowski
The Citizens' Voice

BERWICK, Pa. — State police early Sunday morning charged a man with two counts of criminal homicide on accusations he plowed a vehicle through a crowded Berwick fundraiser — killing one person and wounding 17 — before bludgeoning a woman to death in nearby Nescopeck moments later.

The suspect in the multi-county rampage was identified by state police as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck.

Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Harold Baker is comforted at the scene in Berwick, Pa., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.
Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Harold Baker is comforted at the scene in Berwick, Pa., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Photo/Bob Kalinowski/The Citizens' Voice/Associated Press)

While being escorted out of the State Police at Shickshinny barracks just before 3 a.m. Sunday, Reyes simply said "sorry" in response to questions by reporters.

Following his arraignment, the suspect was jailed in the Columbia County Correctional Facility without bail, state police said in a statement around 4:30 a.m.

"The person who did these heinous crimes tonight is in custody right now," Trooper Anthony Petroski, spokesman for state police Troop N, said in a press conference shortly before midnight from outside the Shickshinny state police barracks.

Police did not release a possible motive for the crimes.

The chaos unfolded around 6:15 p.m. Saturday when a vehicle plowed into a large crowd gathered outside the Intoxicology Department bar on Second Street in Berwick, which was hosting a fundraiser for the families of the 10 people killed in the Aug. 5 fire at 733 First St. in Nescopeck.

"This is crazy. I didn't even bury my kids yet," said Nescopeck volunteer firefighter Harold Baker as he hugged a woman outside the Berwick crime scene, telling her other family members of his were hurt when the vehicle ran into the crowd.

Fire tore quickly through a house in Pennsylvania on Aug. 5, killing seven adults and three children — the son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives of Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Harold Baker. 
Fire tore quickly through a house in Pennsylvania on Aug. 5, killing seven adults and three children — the son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives of Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Harold Baker.  (Photo/Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Baker's son, daughter and three grandchildren were among those who died in the fire, which Baker responded to as a member of his department. It wasn't immediately clear if either crime was connected to the fire.

Contrary to Internet rumors, Petroski said Reyes is not currently a suspect in the fatal blaze.

Shortly after the carnage unfolded in Berwick, police received a call of a man assaulting a woman in Nescopeck and when officers arrived they found the woman dead.

Reyes was soon detained by police and determined to be the suspect in both incidents, launching a joint multi-county investigation since Berwick is in Columbia County and Nescopeck is in Luzerne County, investigators said.

"This is a complete tragedy in a community where there already has been tragedy," Petroski said. "They are already hurting."

State police said 12 victims of the Berwick incident were transported to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, three were taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp., and one was taken to Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, and one was taken to Berwick Hospital.

Major Chris Paris, an area commander of several state police troops, said troopers were called out to interview victims in the hospitals and limited information was immediately available.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to those injured this evening. Certainly, it was an event for a noble cause," Paris said.

Paris pledged the full force of the state police to investigate the crimes.

The Intoxicology Department issued a brief statement about the chaotic incident on its Facebook page.

"Today was an absolute tragedy. We will be closed until further notice. Please respect our privacy while we grieve and try to process the events that occurred. Thank you," the bar posted.


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Meanwhile, state police worked through late Saturday night combing through the debris in the parking lot where the fundraiser was being held for the fire victims.

The raging fire that broke Aug. 5 in Nescopeck claimed the lives of 10 people who were staying at 733 First St. for a family get-together — including several generations of relatives and two sets of siblings.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud popping sound when the fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. and seeing a raging fire quickly consume the front of the house, allowing only three occupants to escape.

The fire remains the subject of a criminal investigation.

Anyone who witnessed or has video of the vehicle plowing through the crowd in Berwick is asked to call the state police or call 911.

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(c)2022 The Citizens' Voice

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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